EA’s Forum Banhammer Still Too Big

Do you remember the furore over EA’s forum bans that stopped people being able to activate their games? It was a mess of terrible public relations, over-zealous use of the banhammer and pretty crappy after sales service.

In that instance, a gamer had been handed a 72 hour ban from EA’s forums, breaking his EA user account which meant that he was also denied access to his online EA games and prevented from activating his single player Dragon Age II game.

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EA did accept that they had gone a little too far, saying that the incident was a mistake and that they would revoke the ban of the user in question and take measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It seems as though that hasn’t been the case.

[drop2]According to a lengthy item over on RockPaperShotgun, there has been multiple cases of forum bans, for various reasons, which have also resulted in the banned user losing out on access to the game they’ve paid for. Now, sidestepping the legal and moral minefield that questions how acceptable it is to block content a user has paid for, forum accounts should be totally separate from gaming accounts. That’s not my own view either, it’s what EA clearly intended when they referred to it as a “mistake” previously this year.

The examples quoted in the RPS piece induce varying degrees of sympathy. In one example, a man is handed a ban after linking to a blog with a guide to help people with Battlefield 3 connection issues. EA said he posted a “commercial” which is clearly a little bit mental.

Another example sees a guy openly posting a thread about “teabagging” which is not only a really stupid thing to do in online gaming, it’s not really appropriate for a family-friendly forum. Perhaps in this case the guy deserved a little forum suspension to remind him that some things just aren’t cool. But does he deserve to have his ability to play his game online removed too?

And then there’s the guy who had his EA forums account banned permanently for using the term “e-peen”. This shortening of “electronic penis” is a term often used to mock those that think their virtual achievements are worth bragging about – online willy waving to act like there’s something to be proud of or belittle other players. The guy didn’t even introduce it to the thread, he replied to another user who had also used the term. Banned, permanently. Now he can’t access any of the EA Origin games he’s paid for.

Quite aside from the debate about validity of the forum bans, this issue of forum misdemeanors leading to rights being revoked is one which should not be ignored.

I get that you pay for a license, rather than simply the physical goods when you buy a game. I understand that just because you bring a disc home from a shop or make a charge on your credit card, that doesn’t give you the rights to use that content in whichever way you see fit – you only have rights to use it as per the license agreement. I might like a little more freedom in that regard but I can understand why publishers might be quite protective and cautious about it. I’ll lose a lot of sympathy for publishers if they start getting heavy handed or using license removals to enforce compliance elsewhere on their networks.

Banning people from forums is one thing, especially if you’re trying to keep a family-friendly atmosphere, but when that crosses over into revoking licenses they’ve paid for, I get quite uncomfortable with that. Add to that the seemingly random and bizarre reasoning behind EA’s bans and I think we have quite a worrying situation.

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17 Comments

  1. Nice article. “…is clearly a little bit mental”. Lol – I enjoyed this bit.

    And just so there is no confusion, I have removed by Thread about teabagging from the TSA Forum.

    • :) We don’t mind a bit of teabagging, our GenChat forum is markedly /not/ family friendly for just such threads!

      • Ha, ha. In that case…

        On a serious note though, it is quite worrying. EA aren’t doing themselves any favours in my opinion. I didn’t like how they handled whole Norwegian BF3 review fiasco against people who played CoD was stupid, then they (on numerous occasions) publically boasted how BF3 was going to beat MW3 (and didn’t according to sales and some review scores). But banning people from playing their games because the said some pretty stupid things is quite daft. Whilst it’s unlikely to stop me buying an EA product, I have given them an imaginary black mark against their name.

      • with all the black marks against ea’s name i reckon their logo must look like this by now.
        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f7/Auto_Racing_Black_Box.svg/800px-Auto_Racing_Black_Box.svg.png

      • I will warn you that TSA nor the GC regs holds any responiability for any limbs lost whislt entering GC.

        Even CB is scared to enter GC!

  2. “We don’t mind a bit of teabagging”

    Quote of the year! :)

  3. Oh god are they still doing that? Good reason I avoid the forums anyway full of angry customers and I guess I’d avoid EA games all together unless it changed, its completely silly and violates rights.

  4. I don’t think there’s ever been a family friendly forum on the internet anyways.
    Certainly not one related to gaming.
    But yeah, ban them from the forums, but not the game. At least not permanently. (If they keep setting up new accounts on the forums, this might shut them up for a day or so.)

    • Pretty much anything with comments is not family friendly, obviously there are exceptions, but people do tend to be rude when provided with anonymity…

    • So true Colm, no matter the thread, the vast majority of gaming forums (TS being an exception of course) degenerate into petty name calling, homophobia and racism within about 6 or 7 posts.
      It never ceases to amaze me and was part of why Episode 2 of Derren Brown’s latest series was so fascinating.

      http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derren-brown-the-experiments/episode-guide/series-1/episode-2

      I guess that’s a commercial ;D

  5. Tis a right arse of a situation but they’ve got their terms of license to fall back on, it doesnt excuse their actions but if you’ve agreed with the terms ( like there’s a choice ) there is not really an awful lot you can do

  6. you know a license agreement cannot countermand the law.
    if a license agreement says the publisher can do something that it legally can’t the license is worthless.

    and i don’t believe a license that says the publisher can take away content you’ve bought if you’ve broken no laws is even legal.

    because that’s what they’re doing here.
    taking away the games people have paid ea for.
    that’s theft, that’s criminal.

    they complain about piracy then steal from their own customers.
    disgusting.

    this is one more reason why drm is just plain wrong.
    pirates will never have this problem, and they won’t have to worry if the ea servers are having their daily nap when they want to play their games.
    while legitmate owners get screwed again.

    still i can shorten that list, instead listing dozens of the games, i can just put EA.

    • Again, I would gladly welcome the arrival of a consumer rights watchdog/champion/organisation specifically focused on the games industry. There’s an awful lot of the industry’s behaviour at the moment that seems extremely dubious.

  7. EA, stop being complete and utter ducks! Send them a warning, but don’t ban them from playing their copy of your game as they have paid for it.

    That is like Peter giving us cakes then wanting it back after he has banned us.

    This is why i refuse to register my copy of a game and then go to their forums.

    And besides, Teabagging? That is so last decade. It’s all about the Pumping now. *pumps* :p

  8. I think the whole idea of having different areas of an account banned due to forum activity is fair enough. Gotta show some people out there that theres repercussions for bad behaviour afterall, even on teh netz.

    But it only works when its done correctly and in the instances mentioned it clearly wasn’t justified. Maybe EA need to get some better moderators, especially if they’re able to dish out punishments as important as that.

  9. Hmmmm, possibley illegal.

    Class action anyone?

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